Fred Wilson’s Techmeme Challenge: Can a Little Tweet Go Big Time?
June 18, 2008 7 Comments
Last week, Fred Wilson asked this:
What will be the first twitter post to get picked up on Techmeme and who will post it?
It’s a good question. First hurdle is a technical issue – Techmeme doesn’t index and scan activity around Twitter. Here’s Gabe Rivera’s response in full:
It’s hard for me to see how automated aggregation of tweets could be a net win for Techmeme. As others have said, tweets lack context, unlike blog which are much more self contained. Could tweets be reassembled into something more coherent for Techmeme? Automated processes for doing that are too error prone, at least by the standards Techmeme would demand. And even if they were perfect, the results will still look strange and disjointed. And in any case, blog posts tend to emerge quickly for the most important stories “breaking” on Twitter. Techmeme has definitely benefited from the Twitter ecosystem. For one thing, Twitter serves as a backchannel that prompts people to blog about things they otherwise would have discovered too late or not at all. Of course Techmeme publishes to Twitter too. But aggregation of the tweets themselves is a tough nut to crack.
In there, you’ll see the technology answer. He also addresses a larger issue, which is that tweets lack context as standalone content. But Fred Wilson answers that question this way:
But you can permalink to a tweet So if dozens of high profile blogs did that, then would that tweet be techmeme material and would it be right for that to be the anchor post?
Context is the name of the game here. If Gabe ever tracked individual tweets (thus solving the technical issue), I think there are two paths toward getting context.
- Self-evident context for the specific tweet
- An aggregation of comments around the tweet
These are different angles on the context subject. Let’s break ‘em down, shall we?
Fred Wilson hits the nail on the head for one way to evaluate context. What blogs are linking to the tweet?
My understanding of the inner workings of Twitter is incomplete, but one thing that’s important is whether a given party has been on Techmeme before. Even better if said party was part of the Techmeme 100. Here’s how Robert Scoble described it:
TechMeme works partly on this principle: past behavior is best indiction of future success. So, Techcrunch gets on top for a lot of things because he’s been best in the past.
With zero tweets on Techmeme thus far, any tweet that makes it there will need an extra boost to get there. Self-evident context will be provided by two sources:
- The Techmeme status of the person who made the tweet
- The Techmeme status of the blogs that link to it
The Techmeme status of the person twittering is key. It’s one thing for Joe Blow to tweet “rumor: amazon.com to buy yahoo”. But if Techmeme regular Kara Swisher tweeted it, then we’re talking! There’d be the challenge of linking Boomtown Kara Swisher with Twitter Kara Swisher. But that doesn’t seem insurmountable.
The first element of context – the Twitterer’s Techmeme status – is linked to the second element, which blogs will link to the tweet. Unless we see a delphic newbie emerge, most high profile bloggers will pay attention to existing A-Listers. Here’s a visual description of all this:
This shouldn’t come across as a negative. It’s reality. The A-Listers got there by knowledge and skill, and have reputations to protect. If they put something out there, you really can put greater credence in it.
That’s self-evident context.
Aggregation of Comments Around the Tweet
The second scenario for a tweet would be the aggregation of conversations around it. The thing here is that the heat of the comments drives its placement on Techmeme. Assuming a lot of comments, and that the subject matter fits the Techmeme sphere.
But this scenario for context still requires some Techmeme juice. Both the original Twitterer and the subsequent commenters will need Techmeme status. Using the commenting from FriendFeed, here is an example:
The red boxes on the FriendFeed comments are for bloggers who regularly make Techmeme (Fred Wilson, Mathew Ingram, Louis Gray, Steve Rubel, Robert Scoble). So the presence of those comments gives the tweet the right context. It’s got Techmeme firepower.
I could see the aggregated comments for a tweet driving that tweet onto Techmeme. And FriendFeed makes it easy to track the conversations around a tweet. Which answers one of Gabe’s concerns in his comment above about tracking the contextual conversations around the tweet.
Fred ain’t so crazy. I could see a tweet hitting Techmeme, under a couple scenarios. But it will take the right combination of existing A-Lister Techmeme firepower to make it happen.